WILKES-BARRE — A broken sewer line below a busy South Wilkes-Barre street could have implications beyond slowing traffic for a few days.
PennDOT workers are in the middle of a $5.25 million resurfacing campaign throughout Luzerne County. Most of Blackman and Horton streets have been milled and retrofitted with handicap-appropriate sidewalk ramps.
Workers have just about treated the entire stretch from Blackman near Route 309 to Horton near Carey Avenue, and the street remains roughshod as prep crews have ground up the pavement on either side in anticipation for fresh asphalt.
“It’s like fixing up a house,” PennDOT regional spokesman James May said. “You’ve got to go through and fix all the holes in the wall before you can paint it.”
Workers are supposed to wrap up on Horton and Blackman sometime next week, but they may be delayed, May said, because late in the afternoon Tuesday, a portion of pavement about 6-by-4 feet in size, sank a few inches into the ground.
A sewage lateral had broken away from the main line, according to Wilkes-Barre City Operations Director Butch Frati, which caused the pavement to drop, creating an impassable rut in the ground. No customers lost service, Frati said, but repairing the pipe is expected to take about two days once sewer repair crews can get to the pipe.
Further complicating matters, the portion of road between Carlisle and Huston streets was blocked off Wednesday as a tree removal company worked to pare down a large, gnarled old tree rooted by the curb.
The tree’s roots were blocking access to the trouble sewer pipes and had to be removed before sewer repairs can begin.
“This is a tough area to travel through right now,” city spokeswoman Liza Prokop said. Prokop and Mayor Tom Leighton visited the Wednesday afternoon.
“Of course, we appreciate everybody’s patience,” Prokop said said. “We know this is an inconvenience.”
The two streets connect South Wilkes-Barre, Hanover Township and the Sans Souci Parkway to Interstate 81 and Route 309.
Frati said Wednesday morning it would be hard to tell just how long repairs would take because the repair team had not evaluated the full extent of the damage. If all goes well, it should take the repairmen about two days, he said, and they could have it done by Saturday.
This isn’t the first time subsidence has plagued the street. Neighbors remembered in 2012 when the pavement fell out beneath an occupied car just a few doors down from where crews now are working. Times Leader archives show the same portion of Horton Street needed emergency sewer line repair last May.
Ron Brown, whose home is in sight of the work zone, said PennDOT should reconsider the paving project when everyone knows the sewer pipes there are bad.
“What I think they should do is strip the whole thing out and put in a whole new pipe,” Brown said. “They should do that before paving, ‘cause they’re just going to have to dig it up again.”
There are 11 stretches of road totaling 18 miles to be resurfaced that are lumped in with the Blackman/Horton streets project. Blackman Street had been slated for completion around August 15.
“This may delay it a couple days,” May said.